In December 2006, Craig Hinton, author and Who fan extraordinaire, passed away. I knew him but a little, purely through email exchange. He was a nice guy, always happy to share his thoughts on some arcane Whoniverse subject.
In December 2008, Shelf Life was published. A 'fanthology,' it was collected and edited by Jay Eales, Adrian Middleton and David McIntee, as a celebration of Craig's life and his unique view of Doctor Who. Dozens of writers and would-be-writers worked to create stories that we felt were somehow 'Craigish.' If not the sort of thing he might have written, at least what he might have enjoyed reading. Those of us who had not been published before were assigned mentors to help us hone our stories into something readable. I was lucky enough to get the very talented Dale Smith, who wrote 'The League of Extraterrestrial Gentlemen' for the book, predating the Paternoster Gang by several years.
As I sit here, it is December 2013. The book was published five years ago. I think it's time I set this story free onto the web. For those who aren't so worryingly immersed in Who continuity, there was a period the noughties in which the BBC eighth Doctor books were set entirely on Earth. The eighth Doctor spent a century stranded on Earth, with no memory of his former life as a time traveller. This story takes place during that period of exile.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
and whoops of revellers filled the air, drowning out the sounds of
the few carriages that clattered along the night time streets.
Hundreds of people were swarming the streets, more and more flooding
into the square in readiness for the onset of the New Year. Peddlers,
after an easy buck, sold flyers and flags, imprinted with ‘Happy
New Century’ or ‘Welcome to 1900!’ to those who could spare
more change than sense. The city of San Francisco was waiting, with
undisguised excitement and agitation, for the onset of the January
Doctor stood in the square, unsure what to do. He stared at the girl,
her red hair shaking as she laughed, and was unable to move. He had
no idea how to proceed – this was not a situation that he was
prepared for. His hearts beat faster, his mouth was dry. He
swallowed, closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
get on with it, he
thought to himself.
Doctor pulled his coat around himself, and walked towards her.
he said, but she didn’t hear him. Swallowing, he tried again,
licking his lips to try to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. ‘Hello
again,’ he said louder, and she turned round.
there,’ she said, smiling the captivating smile she’d shown him
earlier. In the glow of the street lamps he could now see that her
eyes were a brilliant green. He let his gaze drop to his feet, unable
to look her in the eye.
Anne,’ she said, trying to follow his eyes downwards.
I’m the – I’m John,’ he stumbled, feeling suddenly very
self-conscious and deeply uncomfortable. He needed to get this over
with, or he’d never go through with it. He looked at her properly
again. ‘Are you enjoying your evening?’
I was, but I’m having a better one now. So, you sound like you’re
I suppose I do.’ He hadn’t intended this as a joke, but Anne
laughed anyway. It struck him how odd a comment it was, and chuckled
a little in reply. ‘I mean, yes, I’m from England.’ He knew,
somehow, that this wasn’t quite true, but he’d lived there for as
long as he could recall. It seemed true enough for now. ‘People
usually just call me the Doctor,’ he said, and realised how odd
that must sound, too. He really should have made more of an effort to
get into this sort of situation before.
we pop to a bar? I could buy you a drink to see in the New Year.’
“Doctor”,’ she said, giggling again.
two of them wandered into one of the many side streets. As they
walked away from the square, the glow of the streetlights receded.
brings you to San Francisco?’ she asked, hooking her arm around
Doctor swallowed nervously, as he thought for a reply.
travelling. I tend to move around a lot. I’m not so much from
England, as from – everywhere, really. I try not to stay in one
place for too long. I feel happier if I’m on the go. I’ve been
here three weeks now, and I’m already feeling antsy.’
she said, with both a laugh and a question in her voice. ‘Is that a
suppose it must be. I must have picked it up somewhere. You know,
ants in your pants?’
gave him a bemused look.
Perhaps I made it up.’
all Englishmen as strange as you?’
I don’t think so. I’m sure I’m quite different to the others.’
stopped walking, pulling him to a halt.
don’t think we need to go to a bar just yet,’ she said, and
kissed him again.
Doctor pulled away. ‘My, you really are very… forward…’
I don’t like staying still either. So, why do people call you
Doctor? You’re not a surgeon or something, are you?’
muttered the Doctor, as he drew the knife and held it up against her
Doctor scarcely noticed the cold of the wind on his cheeks as he
walked through the night. Trudging down Market Street away from the
Baldwin Hotel, he only barely registered his direction and the sights
around him as he let his mind wander. He often felt like this –
hemmed in, uncomfortable in one place for too long. He’d travelled
to San Francisco
three weeks earlier, and already felt the need to move on. So he
walked, not caring where he might end up. He could return to the
hotel for his belongings later. Not that he carried much with him –
a handful of personal effects, and his box. The box that was the one
permanent reminder that he possessed a past that he could not
reclaim. The box that must surely hold the key to who he was.
heard the single strike of the bell of the city clock, and absently
glanced at his watch. Half past ten. He felt a slight reassurance at
knowing the precise time. Nudged gently out of his introspection, he
noticed the number of people around. Dozens, of varying ages, though
mostly young adults, were milling in the wide street. A couple walked
past him, their hands clasped, giggling, while a trio of young men
laugh uproariously, and, he guessed, drunkenly. A police officer
stood on the corner of Third Street, his face set and as grim as his
evening, officer. Not enjoying the festivities?’ he said, eager for
some kind of discourse to occupy him.
not, sir,’ replied the officer, gruffly. ‘Chief Sullivan has
ordered a man on every block, to keep an eye out for public
indecency. We don’t want people getting out of hand again.’
not,’ said the Doctor, glumly realising that ‘public indecency’
meant public affection. No kissing on the street, orders from the
top. As he continued down the street, he couldn’t help thinking
that it felt wrong; romance was right for this night of the year.
in spite of his limited experience and interest in such pursuits, he
felt sure that a kiss at midnight was exactly the kind of tradition
that was worth upholding.
drifted back into his thoughts. Was there a reason that this city
felt so familiar? It was his first visit; yet, as soon as he arrived
he had felt that he’d been here before. Had he come to the city
before the occurrence of whatever event lost him his memory? His
spirits sank further. Over ten years now, and still no idea who he
was. Ten years since awakening in that carriage, only a slip of paper
and a small box as clues to his identity. He knew that he was the
Doctor, and that he knew somebody called Fitz, but that was all. Who
was he? Hadn’t he learnt anything about himself? Couldn’t he
deduce something? His voice was cultured, educated, but with a faint
northern lilt – possible Liverpudlian. He thought of his clothes –
while everyone around was thoroughly wrapped up to endure the cold,
he wore a brown velvet frock coat with a waistcoat, a dress shirt and
thin trousers. The cold didn’t really bother him, but were the
clothes he wore a clue to his past? His predilection for this formal
wear could perhaps indicate an aristocratic background. He dismissed
the thought – although it felt somehow right, that he had been born
into a life of privilege, his researches over the years had called up
no missing persons cases that matched his description.
he even look any older? He knew that people said you couldn’t see
yourself age, but he’d noticed others ageing. During his travels,
he’d experimented with many activities. Anything that could perhaps
put his existence in a different light, or allow him to access his
own secrets. He had tried acids and opiates, to little effect. He
found that he could shake off drunkenness with a little
concentration. He’d tried sex, but, although enjoyable, he had
never really felt truly comfortable with it. Trances and hypnotism
revealed nothing. Medical examination raised only further questions.
The colour of his blood was slightly off. Most peculiar of all, two
hearts beat in his chest, one on either side. He remembered being
surprised to learn that this wasn’t generally the case. It had
confirmed his suspicion that he didn’t belong here, that he
originated somewhere different. So why, then, did San Francisco seem
so familiar? It felt, in a way, almost like a memory, but vague, on
the cusp of his conscious mind. Much like he had heard memories of
early childhood described to him. He glanced up, noticing that he was
passing a small hospital, its walls whitewashed. Even from the
outside he could sense the pain and illness inside. A sudden panic
ran through him, and he moved on quickly. Why was that? A phobia,
some deeply buried memory?
group of revellers passed him. Three men, two women, all in their
early twenties. One of the women, a strikingly beautiful redhead,
wearing a green dress beneath her coat, smiled at him.
New Year!’ she said, happily.
enthusiasm was infectious, and the Doctor found himself smiling.
‘Isn’t it a little early?’ he asked.
shrugged, walking up to him. She put her arms around his waist, and,
before he could object, kissed him full on the lips. Surprised, he
resisted for a second, but then kissed her back. He tasted wine on
her. Pulling apart, they smiled at each other again, and, unable to
resist, he kissed her again.
that!’ A deep cry came from behind them. Police. Of course, the
‘public indecency’ ban.
pulled apart again. ‘Sorry, officer, it won’t happen again,’ he
said, noticing that it was the same officer that he’d spoken to
earlier. Clearly he’d been keeping his eye on him.
keep a look out for you,’ said the girl, walking back to her
friends, who were now in fits of giggles.
Doctor continued wandering, his spirits now somewhat lifted. Although
he rarely felt the need for romance, he couldn’t help but feel that
nights like this were different. As his
drifted onto fruitier subjects, he noticed, out of the corner of his
eye, something deep blue.
turned. There, on the corner of the street, was his box. Standing
proudly, seven feet of oblong, blue-painted wood. How did it get
here? He approached it, realising that it wasn’t his at all. It had
more detail; panelling and lettering on its surface. The words
‘Police Public Call Box’ were inscribed upon it. Somehow, though,
he could sense the connection. He placed his hand upon it – yes,
the ever-so-faint, rhythmic hum, always present on his own block, was
there. It had to be of the same origin. His hearts leapt – after
all this time, could this finally be it? A link to his past?
was somebody behind him. He could hear their footsteps, hard soles
clicking on the cobbles. He turned. A tall man approached. He was
dressed in funereal black, wearing a long-coated suit, cloak and top
hat, and was carrying a silver-tipped cane.
evening,’ said the stranger. His voice was cultured, deep yet soft,
but with a grittiness to it. ‘You seem to have an interest in my
are you?’ asked the Doctor. It seemed the best thing to ask.
Somehow, his usual confidence had faded upon this man’s approach.
His hearts felt heavier. He fond himself staring at the man’s
cravat, entranced by the silver whorls on the black silk.
have had many names, my dear sir, but for now, perhaps you should
refer to me as Pendragon – an alias from my recent past, that I
confess I’ve become rather fond of. You, of course, are the
do you know me?’ said the Doctor, trying to regain his composure.
share an origin, Doctor.’ Pendragon’s black eyes looked hard into
the Doctor’s own.
me more,’ the Doctor demanded, silently adding please, desperate to
smiled. It was a thin smile, without kindness. ‘Wouldn’t you
rather remember for yourself?’
that possible?’ said the Doctor, his voice a whisper. If there was
any chance that this was true, that after ten years he’d finally
long as the correct procedures are followed.’
Universe is run on fairly simple lines, Doctor. Time and space are
governed by certain beings. Entities would be perhaps a more
appropriate term. They are more functions of the structure of reality
than life forms in their own right. These eternal beings can be
invoked by utilising the correct rituals.’
Doctor, though fascinated, couldn’t really believe this. ‘I’m a
rationalist. I can’t accept the use of rituals or the existence of
spirits.’ Was this man an occultist? It would certainly explain the
name. Clearly styles himself as a modern Merlin, though the
can assure you that it is all true. Explain, if you will, the
fire-based being you encountered ten years ago?’
do you know about that?’
know a great deal about you, Doctor. I have been searching for you.
And I promise you, these beings exist. They are all part of the
Universe’s myriad ways of expressing itself. There are many
wonders… and terrors… to be seen.’
Doctor thought of some of the things he had heard recently. Keeping
his ear to the ground for any information that might explain his
background, he’d listened out for stories and rumours of unusual
events. He’d heard tales of a Chinese vampire stalking young girls
in London; that a young girl had been found, perfectly preserved and
alive in an Egyptian sarcophagus; and that, just a few weeks
previously, the Thames had been beset by a flurry of living crystals.
Not to mention the many theories on the identity of the Ripper. He
had always felt that there was more to the world than he was seeing.
well,’ said the Doctor. ‘How do I get my memory back?’
with me,’ said Pendragon, turning. The Doctor followed.
walked back up the street, retracing the Doctor’s steps. There were
more people out than before, and Pendragon had to raise his voice to
be heard over their conversations and cheers.
need to summon a being known as Mnemosyne. No doubt the name is
familiar to you.’
Greek Titan,’ said the Doctor, with barely a thought. ‘She
personified memory and identity.’ It was clear where this was
going, but it still seemed somehow far-fetched.
Many of the classical myths have their basis in reality; horned
species travelled to Earth in the past and inspired tales of the
Devil; the gods of Egypt were vast and advanced star-travellers.
Mnemosyne is of the order of beings of which I spoke. It is she who
has the power to restore you.’
you say so, thought the Doctor. ‘How do we summon her?’
shall require a sacrifice.’
Doctor stopped. ‘A sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice?’
walking, Doctor. Regrettable though it is,’ said Pendragon, in a
way that suggested he didn’t regret it in the slightest, ‘a human
sacrifice must be made. Mnemosyne does not dwell in this plane of
existence. She inhabits the Vortex, and the only available way to
access the Vortex is through a biodata ritual. Her life energy and
essence will open the way and draw the Eternal to us.’
had reached the environs of the city hall, where a thriving crowd had
amassed. Pendragon pointed to a woman standing a few yards away. It
was the redhead
the Doctor had met earlier. She was laughing with her friends, and
having a generally good time by the looks of things.
her,’ said the Doctor, ‘someone else.’ He could hardly believe
he was even considering this course of action, but somehow Pendragon
made it sound justifiable. If it was the only way he could regain his
will be easy to draw away from the crowd, seeing as you are already
‘acquainted.’’ He reached into his pocket, drawing out an
ornate knife, its surface inscribed with complex designs of
concentric circles. ‘Use this. The inscriptions will begin the
ritual upon the touch of her blood.’
Doctor took the knife gingerly, a wave of nausea passing over him. He
looked at Pendragon, needing to know why this must be done. He
couldn’t do it, could he? Pendragon just looked back at him,
staring deep into his eyes. The Doctor felt his resolve waver, his
hearts jump. Something in that gaze penetrated deep into the darkest
pits of his soul. Pendragon turned, and walked away, fading into the
shadows at the side of the street. The Doctor slipped the knife into
his belt, and, pulling his coat around him, approached the girl.
his free arm, he pushed her against the wall of the alley, into the
shadows. The blade pushed against her throat, scratching her skin. A
thin trickle of blood dribbled down her neck. The hilt was cold in
his hand, which ached where he was gripping it so hard.
happiness and seductiveness in her eyes transformed immediately into
absolute fear. Even through the darkness he could see them, wide open
and flitting from side to side. She was holding her breath, and the
Doctor could feel her quickening pulse, travelling through the blade
into his hand.
hearts pumped faster too, blood pounding in his ears. He still felt
revulsion at what he was about to do, and yet, something within him,
something in the pit of his stomach, in the rush of his blood, was
desperate to do it. Some part of him was going to enjoy this. He
could feel this part of himself willing him to go on, and the Doctor
found himself wondering how the blood would look as it poured from
low hum sounded from behind him. For an instant he was alarmed, but
he recognised it – it was Pendragon’s voice. He didn’t know
where it was coming from, but there was a deep whispering, some
language he didn’t understand. A chant, and incantation, perhaps.
Pendragon was playing his part in the ritual, and the Doctor knew it
was the moment to do it.
pushed the knife just a little harder into her, and she looked at
him, right into his eyes. A look of complete loss and desperation.
She’d never understand why she had died, what he had being trying
to achieve. Why he had cut her life short.
pulled the knife away from her, and staggered backwards.
he said, his voice hoarse.
looked at him for a moment, then turned and sprinted back towards the
Doctor watched her run into the night, tears beginning to well in his
eyes. How could he even think of killing someone, just for his own
selfish gain? Especially someone like her, so full of the life he was
about to take. What was going through his mind?
shadows shifted, and a figure stepped out in front of him. The face
of Pendragon looked down at him, twisted in barely suppressed rage.
coward!’ he snarled. ‘You pathetic moral cripple! You’ve just
allowed your best chance of freedom escape!’ He swung out with his
cane, cracking the Doctor across the jaw, sending him sprawling him
into the alley wall with its force. The Doctor clutched his jaw, and
then snatched his hand away from the pain. There was blood on his
fingers, and he could feel it trickling down his neck. He looked up
at Pendragon, all semblance of his earlier civility gone.
couldn’t do it, Pendragon. I just couldn’t,’ responded the
Doctor. ‘I suppose I’m just not like you.’
more like me than you realise, Doctor.’
how are you like me?’ demanded the Doctor, staggering to his feet.
you want to know Doctor? Truly?’
me,’ insisted the Doctor.
a moment, the Doctor assumed he had misheard.
am you,’ growled Pendragon. ‘That is the truth.’
retorted the Doctor, spitting blood onto the pavement. ‘Unmitigated
rubbish! How can you possibly be me?’ However, even as he said it,
he felt the horrible realisation that it was somehow true.
am your dark heart, Doctor. The side of your soul that you keep
hidden away. I am your every depraved thought, given freedom and
form. One day, you will succumb to the hatred; the anger and the fear
that you fool yourself you control. You will give into the madness,
and you will become me.’
can’t be true,’ the Doctor whispered, too terrified to accept it.
Could it be true? Could this individual, who looked nothing like him,
be a part of him? It sounded absurd, but within him he knew it was
possible. Something in the depths of his shuttered mind confirmed it.
are you here?’ he asked.
am merely ensuring that your destiny follows its course,’ said
Pendragon, composing himself.
don’t believe in destiny,’ scoffed the Doctor, desperate for a
straw to clutch at. He squared up to Pendragon, looking him in his
black eyes. ‘The future is not set. I can be whomever, or whatever,
I decide. My destiny is my own choice.’
laughed a cruel, hollow sound. ‘I beg to differ.’
Doctor smiled back at him, a new notion coming to him.
may be me. Somehow, I don’t know how, maybe I can become you. But
that is simply one possible future, isn’t it? You’re one way my
life can go, but not the only way. Why else would you be here? Ha!’
The Doctor laughed.
look of pure hatred crossed Pendragon’s face. ‘How dare you laugh
at me?’ he demanded.
frightened, aren’t you?’ retorted the Doctor. ‘You’re
terrified that you’ll never exist. You’ve come back to push me
into the darkness, to ensure that I become you, because I don’t
have to. Well, I’m telling you, I won’t! I’d rather live
forever in ignorance, as a lost soul, than remember my past and
condemn myself to a future as one like you. One who values life so
little.’ He wiped the blood off his mouth.
smiled. ‘You think that’s the only blood on your hands, Doctor?
You really have no idea what you are capable of. The things you have
done, the things you will do. The things that will drive you to
I may have done in the past, I can choose what I will do in the
future. This has to be true. You said you were searching for me –
why, if you are me? Surely you could just remember where I was! No, I
think things are already changing. Your past is unravelling,
Pendragon, and you’re losing track of it! You needed a time when I
was weak, easy to influence, so that you could push me back onto the
path to becoming you. But you had to search for me, trawl your own
changing history! You really must be desperate. And so, so scared.’
face showed only hatred. He stepped closer to the Doctor, leaning
forward so that they were almost nose-to-nose.
least your deductive skills have not suffered during your time on
Earth. Yes, I am but one possible future for you, Doctor, but your
destiny remains in flux. I will do anything necessary to ensure my
existence. I am your truest form, stripped of the moral, human
uncertainties. You should not fight me; you should embrace your
was slowly fading, the bricks of the wall behind him becoming visible
through his shadowy form.
will be further moments of darkness ahead, do not doubt that. My
existence may be weak, but I still have enough power to take full
advantage of each one of them. Until we next…’
that, he faded to nothing. A moment of panic hit the Doctor, as he
realised what he had let go.
Come back! Please!’
Doctor looked around desperately for any sign of him. He ran out into
the next street, the cheers of the crowd now loud enough to hear.
Tell me who I am!’
looked up at the stars, as the cheers grew ever louder, and the clock
in the square began to chime.
AM I?’ he screamed, as it finally struck twelve.